Web bloat

Dan Luu wrote an article some time ago about web bloat which I generally agree with and feel this is a problem. From a personal point of view I don't think I should see performance worse than I find in 3D games when reading text. Sometimes you can see this on websites that have massive JavaScript libraries to download and that's before considering the affects on mobile devices' performance and battery life.

While it's not ideal that my phone's battery won't last as long there is another issue which Dan touches on and I won't repeat. But it restricts who can view your site. Quite often people forget the internet is global and not everyone lives in San Francisco.

Another reason I dislike the bloat is more often than not it adds nothing. Share bars, flashing and moving content. These distract, constrict the viewing area and generally make reading much harder. Reproducing browser functionality is just bad programming. This is reinventing the wheel and often less efficiently and to not benefit to the user. As fun as it may be to add a new feature on your website please consider if it exists already. Especially if it's a back button.

On a lighter note, he's also plotted the performance of various terminals and Emacs does quite well.

Posted on 18 Jul 2017, 8:53 p.m. by toadwarrior

Emacs theme of the moment

If you're looking for a good light theme I'd suggest Leuven which is included in emacs but the previous link is the best way to get the latest changes.

If there is one thing I'd complain about it's the rainbow parenthesis colours which are quite poor and I'm working out my own combination. Otherwise it seems fairly solid.

Posted on 10 May 2017, 8:19 p.m. by toadwarrior

new hardware and software from apple

Both iPhone 7 and Apple Watch 2 look really good but I will likely pass on them for one reason really. My iPhone 6 and Apple watch 1 work perfectly fine. I'm trying not to be wasteful and replace my items too soon. In terms of Apple watch it's easy to feel that way. With iPhone 7, it's much harder. The jet black colour, superior screen colours, camera and waterproofing are very, very tempting. As someone using strictly bluetooth headphones with my iPhone I don't mind the lack of the headphone jack and welcome it if it will push companies to improve wireless headphones. It is so much better without the wire. I think I would find it hard to go back to wired headphones even as they currently behave.

So with the things I can and have been using - iOS 10, macOS Sierra and watchOS. I am generally happy.

  1. macOS is generally a solid upgrade. So far the only thing that bugs me is the white notification centre while using the dark theme. It looks very much out of place.

  2. iOS 10. Changing things around is ok and generally it's all ok. I'm not sure how I feel about the whiteness of everything. I'm also not sure about making many of the fonts larger. But the things I use the most are generally quite good. I do think the music app is improved but to be honest it was a bit of a mess before so it would be hard to not improve it. However on that note why is not so hard to "heart" songs? It's hidden from the lock screen and requires digging through menus when in the music app too. Someone should be told off for that. When listening to music I don't want to unlock my phone and certainly not dig around menus to heart a song.

  3. watchOS. In so many ways it's almost like a new OS. it's so much faster, the new layout of the activity app is perfect. The improved data from the workout results. It's all good. However there is one move that was down right awful. You used to have numerous items in the "swipe up" menu which included a now playing screen which always held the right context for podcasts and music and worked with 3rd party apps like spotify. Which ever screen you used last would be there when you swiped up again. It was perfect. Now "swipe up" reveals a bunch of buttons many of which I'll never use on a daily basis. Seriously, airplane mode needs that sort of prominence? If I want to access the sort of apps that were there before I need to click the side button which used to have your friends list. That would be fine but on top of clicking it I need to then click the app to focus it. Getting to "now playing" is downright painful now. I've alleviated some of this by creating a watch face that has the music app but that means it only works on music. Not podcasts. It needs to be far more effortless. if I am using that now playing screen there's a good chance my hands are full and I want to only work with a minimal number of single finger flicks.

All in all there are regressions amongst the three aside from watchOS' painful issue with "now playing". I'm pleased to have updated across the board. That said seriously apple, sort the "now playing" portion of watchOS. I'll help with the suggestion. Swap the functionality of the button and swipe up. Putting swipe up back to what it was and putting the screen of useless buttons behind the button.

Posted on 22 Sep 2016, 11:15 p.m. by toadwarrior

Kaspersky calls out security parasites

Many next generation security solutions rely on the handwork of someone else without contributing back. A problem I think we seen software in general thanks to business friendly open source licences.

Anyway I suggest have a read of Eugene Kaspersky's article Darwinism in IT Security, Pt. 3: Time to Deal with These No-Good Parasites

And for those who might be interested my solution to open source is give it away under the GPL and nothing else. If someone wants it for their business without sharing back have a dual licence requiring money so they're at least funding develop via paying you for your work.

Posted on 1 Jun 2016, 7:43 p.m. by toadwarrior

My wish list for Apple

Now that everyone is taking time to explain what they want from Apple I felt ir was time to give my exceptionally short list.

Do away with the idea of 'pay once, update forever' in the App Store. If some companies would like to continue selling their apps that way it's fine but it's unsustainable and, I imagine, why the App Store is full of clones and unhelpful toy-like apps. If you go ahead with this then when I search for scanbot I'd imagine seeing one result from the scanbot author. Leaving me only capable of purchasing the latest or, after clicking into its page, seeing a version listing.

Start taking copyright infringement, scam-like apps and other App Store dreck more seriously. It's starting to feel like a shithole. I think we're only lucky that Google is worse in both these respects so developers have no choice.

We have a pro iPad so give us Xcode for iPad or some other means to write code. Compiling isn't necessarily a must but we're long overdue for some useful apps for programmers.

That's it, that's all I'd want.

Especially with a supposed pro iPad coming out its time to start looking after professionals. Having a 'pro' iPad and using it to play with fashion apps would just be sad.

Posted on 24 Mar 2016, 10:08 a.m. by toadwarrior

JavaScript: The inefficient parts

My relatively new macbook rarely has any problems with the tasks I give it. I can watch HD video while listening to music and do virtually any task other than play games and never have to think about hearing the fan or feeling the heat of a cooking macbook.

So in what world is it acceptable that viewing a single photo album within Google Photos should cause my system to feel like it's on the sun and sound like a jet taking off?

Photo albums should be a perfect match for web technologies and yet we can still get it so wrong with what are supposed to be some of the smartest people on the planet in terms of software development.

Perhaps that a good sign that we should be looking beyond HTML and JavaScript and develop proper tools for building applications on the web. The cost of all the additional energy spent to execute tasks poorly in JavaScript to date could probably fund housing for all the homeless people in San Francisco. I think it's time Google heads back to the drawing board.

Posted on 1 Mar 2016, 10:53 p.m. by toadwarrior

The website obesity Crisis

IdleWord's talk on the website obesity crisis was one of the best things I've read in some time and it sums up pretty much how I feel about where web development is heading.

As we enter 2016 I can look back on 2015 as the year I've embraced ad blockers. Part of that is because Apple and their content blocking system makes it work so well but that maybe covers 5% of the reason I've made the switch. I still prefer a free web and don't mind ads as such. However ads are becoming so bloated and so are the websites they're featured on.

In an increasingly mobile world that relies on slower battery powered hardware it's downright criminal what some web developers do so I feel it's in everyone's best interest to block them. Be fair and contact the website to let them know why.

Then hit up 1Blocker for iOS and Adamant for OS X Safari isn't too bad. It has some quirks on certain pages of sites like LinkedIn which lead to disabling and re-enabling it but the overall benefit from it makes it work it.

Posted on 1 Jan 2016, 11:40 p.m. by toadwarrior

The hamburger

Recently the hamburger button has taken off on the internet and mobile apps. While the button itself is quite old I would imagine part of the reason for its take-off has been the anti-Skeuomorph movement.

I get the point of that movement and to an extent I understand it. However while children now and in the future may not know what a floppy is I would then argue that its origin doesn't really matter. It just becomes the symbol that everyone understands what it does.

The problem with the hamburger is there is no definitive action for it. Ironically while not being skeuomorphic it's been associated with a real world item anyway and arguably in a way more confusing than a floppy disc.

I think it's quite a handy icon but it's ridges imply it should be draggable and pull something into view. If it does that it's often not in a direction that goes with the ridges. Horizontal ridges would imply a thumb should pull down.

I've recently seen the hamburger used for bringing up pop-up menus. It has no defined use so I would have to agree with the wikipedia entry which mentions poor design choice.

We do need new design ideas but let qualified designers work on it. Rather than it being something programmers use to cut costs on design (like flat design).

Posted on 6 Dec 2015, 11:13 p.m. by toadwarrior

RIP Thunderbird

Mozilla Thunderbird has been more or less on its death bed since 2012 but Mozilla has made it official that they don't care for it and they're dropping Thunderbird entirely. Now this could be a good thing for Thunderbird but I think it's unlikely. At least not anytime soon.

I've moved away from Thunderbird a couple months ago largely because I've felt the writing was on the wall for the program despite it being an excellent little email / newsgroup client.

What concerns me more is what will happen to Firefox which seems to be quite keen on going down the Opera route of becoming a Chrome clone. I didn't mind the little visual tweaks but the whole extension signing process among other things which will throw all their loyal add-on developers under a bus doesn't seem like the right move forward.

I'm not sure they understand why people use Firefox and if they're going to create a very Chrome-like browser then surely that means user's might as well just use Chrome.

Not surprisingly I've moved fully over to Safari too after so many years of Netscape / Firefox usage. Now that Firefox is on iOS I should be joyed that my preferred browser is there but I've simply lost any confidence in Mozilla understanding its users. I joined the internet with Netscape Navigator, I've got my donor shirt and now I'm just ignoring them.

It'll be interesting to see what happens on Linux. I will use Firefox there for the foreseeable future but we'll have to see what the future holds.

Posted on 6 Dec 2015, 11:01 p.m. by toadwarrior

Apple watch mini review

Since the announcement of the Apple Watch I've been interested in it but I've never been entirely sure if I would see any real benefit. It is admittedly a bit pricey. But then two weeks ago I had a demo session in the local Apple store and that was it. I knew I had to have it. I was unsure which one I wanted so I meant to put off the purchase for a month. To give me time to think about it. I lasted a week and it arrived the end of last week.

I went with the larger Watch Sport. I think that was the best choice. It's not even so much about the price but I'm very interested in the fitness features and the others either look worse with the sport band or just don't work as a sports watch with the other bands.

So anyway, I've had it nearly a week now and I have to say I'm glad I went ahead and bought it. I expected there to be a manual - there wasn't really (at least not in the box). The iPhone app points you towards one but to be honest it's pretty straight forward. You can just play around with it and it's largely operates in a very natural way rendering a manual almost redundant.

I will say the setup process is long. Not so much in a bad way. It takes seconds to sync the watch to you phone and it's working straight away. But there seems to be a lot of background syncing that can take some time. Perhaps it's partially because of all the music on my iPhone and moving all the thumbnails over and stuff like that but it felt like it took a good 30 minutes or more to make it complete. Not that it rendered useless in anyway. It's just that you might find, for example, it's not syncing activity data just yet. Your steps and all that will eventually make it's way over though.

The ability to control your music from the watch and get notifications alone makes it very handy but easy to use activity and work out tracking really seals the deal. For me at least. Perhaps if you're just flat out against doing anything physical there's not much of a reason for you to have one but I find myself make the extra effort. So it's a positive effect on my health and in my mind even for £350 that's not that much if my health is improved even if in some ways it's just a pricey toy.

The battery life is certainly good enough. Admittedly I don't take calls on it but it's not because I think it's bad for that - actually I don't know. It's just not my thing to be taking calls in a more public way like that. Messaging works quite well. It seems to recognise what I say more than my iPhone had done itself in the past. I'm in an awkward position of being an American in the UK. While my accent has changed some I think the iPhone originally had some trouble as it may be slightly tweaked to in this region to consider speech difference which actually I don't want / need. But whatever it works though again it's a bit too public I can't see myself using a lot. I'm sure that factors in a lot to the battery life. Not making calls easily would give me perhaps a day and a half maybe a bit more out of the battery. I've fallen asleep with it on and it's not really been a problem. I'm just not going to want to sleep with it on (just as I never slept with any watch on in the past) so having to charge it every day isn't an issue.

I suspect transferring music onto the watch and playing it from the watch will affect the battery life. If that's your thing go for it but I struggle to see why I would want to duplicate my music that's on my phone. It feels like wasting space.

The apple watch and activity app on your phone are the key apps for interfacing with apple watch. Both are great in my mind. I like that the watch app gives you a filtered view on the app store to make it easier to browse watch related apps.

So over all I'm really happy with it and I would definitely recommend it. It is a bit expensive and it is worth looking over the features to see if it benefits you but if it has features you want and especially if you're into fitness and exercise I'd say go for it.

Posted on 24 Jun 2015, 10:45 p.m. by toadwarrior

iOS app idea

My Mac Mini serves as my media centre for my TV. I'm sure Apple TV is nice but I want a little more and the Mini is so small anyway. It just makes sense.

I have a wireless mouse and keyboard. It works well enough and I'm generally happy with it but what I'd love to see Apple do is come up with an app that let's me use my phone ideally as a keyboard and mouse. At least as a trackpad at the very least.

I feel there would be other reasons this would come in handy (presentations as an example) but it's basically the best way do a remote for a PC based media centre.

What you do is say when the app is open and the phone is in the normal vertical position is acts as a trackpad. I can drag my finger around the screen and control the mouse cursor.

I then rotate the phone into a horizontal position and the screen becomes a keyboard allowing me to obviously use it as a wireless keyboard.

If Apple makes this happen I would be a very happy person.

Posted on 24 Jun 2015, 9:43 p.m. by toadwarrior